I’ve often thought that few, if any of us, can truly understand the enormous loss that results from a wrongful conviction — loss of freedom, loss of choice, loss of life. And that loss extends beyond prison walls to the mothers, the fathers, the sons and the daughters who have had their innocent loved one taken from them.
Now the holidays are upon us, a happy time if we’re fortunate, but a difficult time for many. The absence of family members can cause a quiet despair made even more acute when the missing loved one is locked behind bars because of a wrongful conviction.
When speaking of his incarceration, DNA exoneree Alan Crotzer describes his mom, Dorothy Ann Crotzer, as “the only thing I had.” Dorothy lost her son to the Florida prison system when he was only 20 years old. Alan was wrongfully convicted of sexual battery, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and robbery in 1981. Dorothy spent the next 20 holiday seasons without her son.
Alan spent 24.5 years locked away from his family. He was finally exonerated in 2006, four years after his mom’s death. He had not even been allowed to attend her funeral.
This will be the second Christmas in 37 years that Sarah, 78, will have her son, Jamie Bain, at home with her. On December 17, 2009, Jamie was freed from prison after post-conviction DNA testing proved his innocence of a 1974 rape and kidnapping. He had spent 35 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
In a recent interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Sarah described the day that Jamie was pronounced guilty as “sickening and heart wrenching” because, when he turned to her with fear and pleading in his eyes, she knew she could not help him.
Both Dorothy and Sarah never stopped believing in their sons.
One lived to see her son freed.
The other did not.
It is every parent’s nightmare to lose a child under any circumstance. With Florida having the third largest prison population in the United States, you know that there are hundreds of innocent people — sons and daughters — wrongfully locked up in the state’s prisons.
Our mission is to find and help free those innocent people, primarily using DNA testing. There are many more mothers like Dorothy and Sarah who are still waiting for their sons and daughters to come home.
Our office receives scores of inquiries from inmates each month. We are currently litigating dozens of cases with hundreds more in various stages of evaluation and review by our legal staff. Although we are handling more cases than ever, there is still much work to be done. Some cases take months, even years, to reach resolution.
The Innocence Project of Florida receives no funding from the State of Florida. We operate solely on grants and individual donations from caring people like you.
This year I am asking you to please make a gift of $25, $50, $100 or $250.
Help us make this holiday season the turning point for innocent people across the state. Your donation will enable us to evaluate and review their cases more quickly, obtain more DNA testing, and bring these sons and daughters home to their families.
Thank you for helping us unlock the truth.